Robert Ghrist, Andrea Mitchell University Professor in Mathematics and Electrical and System Engineering, has been appointed the Penn Engineering associate dean for undergraduate education.
Effective July 1, Ghrist will supervise all Penn Engineering undergraduate affairs and serve as the Chair of the school-wide Undergraduate Affairs Committee, Penn Engineering Today announced.
Ghrist is an acclaimed applied mathematics researcher specializing in algebraic topology applications in data, networks, robotics, and neuroscience. Since he came to Penn, the Department of Defense has allocated over $10 million to Ghrist's work.
He also served as the inaugural faculty co-director for the Office of Penn First Plus, where he advocated for first-generation, low-income students to pursue higher education. One of his main goals was to make higher-level mathematics more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.
His 45-page creation, "Funny Little Calculus Text," is an online course that uses cartoons and drawings to engage students in basic math concepts while simultaneously alluding to more challenging mathematical theories.
"I want to inspire people to pursue math later on in life. I agree that higher-level math is difficult, and people need to see the interesting bits, because they need to be motivated to muddle through the hard part,” Ghrist told The Daily Pennsylvanian in 2016.
In addition to his research, Ghrist is also a highly decorated educator. He is a recipient of Penn's 2015 Lindback Award, which recognizes distinguished teaching, and Penn’s 2009 Engineering S. Reid Warren Jr. Award for his exemplary work in guiding undergraduate students’ development.
"Rob is an award-winning, gifted educator who strives to make mathematics accessible to a broad range of students." Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, said.
In 2008, Ghrist was appointed Penn’s seventh Penn Integrates Knowledge professor. He was listed as a top 50 transformative researcher by Scientific American in 2007 and was recognized for his mathematical writing by the Mathematical Association of America’s Chauvenet Prize.